Karina Inkster is a Vancouver-based author, fitness coach, certified personal trainer with a master’s degree in gerontology, specializing in health and aging, and music lover. When she was 11, she became vegetarian and after 5 years, she became completely vegan. She embraced a plant-based lifestyle and recently wrote a beautiful book entitled Vegan Vitality. As the name suggests, this book provides detailed information about benefits of a vegan lifestyle, how to adopt plant-based diets, quick vegan recipes with photos for busy professionals, and many inspiring stories from her personal life about healthy living. She calls herself a friendly kick in the butt that inspires and empowers her clients to live healthy lives. I would like to share with my readers an interview I did with Karina about her book and her work as a fitness coach – Gurdeep Pandher
Gurdeep Pandher: Congratulations on writing this book! Please introduce your book!
Karina Inkster: Well thank you! Vegan Vitality is a cookbook and active living guide for vegetarians, vegans, or really anyone interested in eating a more plant-based diet and leading an active lifestyle at the same time. It includes health and active living advice and workouts, more than 100 recipes, nutritional considerations for vegan athletes, and interviews that I did with 16 vegan athletes and fitness professionals.
Gurdeep Pandher: Great! How did the idea of writing this book Vegan Vitality enter into your mind?
Karina Inkster: That’s a really good question because I don’t really remember the process, but I do remember that my husband and I were in Hawaii for our honeymoon, so that must have been in October 2011. I guess I was thinking about my next career step, I was just finishing up my masters degree and about to launch my health and fitness business. I guess I was in a bit of a frame of mind where I was thinking about what my next steps were and writing a book was always something that I wanted to do. I noticed that there were countless vegan cookbooks out there, but hardly any of them bridge the gap between nutrition and fitness, approaching health more holistically. I thought there was a gap in the marketplace and that I could fill it.
Gurdeep Pandher: How long did it take for you to complete this book?
Karina Inkster: I started writing notes for it basically right away, which was in October of 2011. So from taking those first notes to having the finished book in my hands was just over three years – so it was quite a long process.
Gurdeep Pandher: Yeah, writing a book is a long journey. Did you face any challenges during your writing process?
Karina Inkster: Well, I think that my main challenge in writing was being able to carve out long blocks of time because I was working more than fulltime to establish a new business that had nothing to do with writing a book. I found that I work best in long chunks of time as opposed to several shorter blocks of time. So I decided to work 12-hour workdays in my business every weekday except for Wednesdays, when I would work only half a day at the gym and then dedicate the rest of the time to writing. That “writing Wednesday” schedule worked so well for me that I still maintain it now. Really, the time thing was the most challenging for me.
Gurdeep Pandher: Cool! Who published your book, was it an easy journey to find a suitable publisher?
Karina Inkster: My book is published by Skyhorse Publishing in New York and you know what? It’s never easy to find a publisher. It’s kind of how it works. First, I needed to find a literary agent to represent my work because most publishing houses don’t accept unsolicited proposals from authors. I sent out 60 query letters to agents and I got one person who was interested in the project.
Gurdeep Pandher: Wow! 60 letters?
Karina Inkster: Yeah, it’s pretty crazy but it seems like it’s part of the business. I read somewhere that the first Harry Potter book was rejected by 12 different publishers so it all seems like it’s all within the business, but it’s definitely hard work and that actually took a lot of time. It took about nine months where I wasn’t actually working on the book; I was just waiting to get an agent and then a publisher.
Gurdeep Pandher: You wrote in your book that you always wanted to be an author. Please tell me more about your dream and career in writing.
Karina Inkster: I’ve known since a really young age that I wanted to publish at least one book, but it was never really fully formed into a career aspiration. I’ve always known it was something I wanted to do even if I had a different career taking up most of my time, which is what I’m doing now. Today – which is more than 20 years after first dreaming about becoming an author – I see writing books as a secondary branch of my main business of health and fitness coaching. It’s not my main career but it’s something that’s included in my health and fitness business.
Fruit Salad with Ginger and Mint
Karina’s recipe: Fruit Salad with Ginger and Mint | Photo by: John Watson
Gurdeep Pandher: You have been a vegan for a long time, so what made you to choose this lifestyle?
Karina Inkster: That’s a good question, it’s kind of a loaded question! I became vegan for three main reasons, and the first one is the most important. The first one is that it’s a moral decision for me. I believe that we have a moral obligation to not impose unnecessary suffering on animals, and I think that eating animals (in our western world at least) is entirely unnecessary and in fact unhealthy. When I was 11, I went vegetarian mostly for this moral reason to stop supporting the torture and the mistreatment of animals inherent in animal agriculture. Then four or five years later, I realized that there is really no moral distinction between meat and other animal products – they are all related. One industry supports the next industry, so I went fully vegan pretty much immediately, which was 12 years ago. I’m always reminded of Paul McCartney’s quote, who said, ‘If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian’. I think there is some truth to that because as I say in the book people typically avoid learning about how animals are treated and the suffering that is involved in getting meat onto their plates. Once we take responsibility to become aware of what happens behind those slaughterhouse walls, a lot of people stop eating meat on the spot.
The second reason I went vegan is straightforward: concern for our environment. Animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gas per year than all forms of transportation combined. There are a bunch of other reasons under the environmental umbrella, like one third of our planet’s arable land is occupied by crops that are given to livestock, not people. I read one calculation that the USA alone could feed 800 million people with the grain that the livestock eat. To me that just means that there’s complete mismanagement of resources, at least in part. Other environmental problems include deforestation of rainforests and pollution.
The third reason I went vegan pretty simply is for health reasons. There are a lot of studies that point to health benefits of an entirely plant-based diet, assuming you do it properly to get enough nutrients and protein and all that. It’s an easy one for me personally because I don’t react very well to dairy, so once I figured that out I was already vegetarian, so it made sense to me to take the full step to vegan.
Gurdeep Pandher: My next question is kind of related and you’ve already covered it a bit. Animals are still subject to awful torture in North America, I think everywhere in the world. They are slaughtered for humans to eat despite so much awareness these days in the Internet and other media about abuse against animals. Why is there not enough being done practically to stop cruelty against animals?
Karina Inkster: That’s a really great question and it seems not a lot of people think of that aspect of things. I think unfortunately it’s because money comes first in the animal agriculture business, not animal welfare. This includes things like government funding for livestock and dairy businesses even though there has actually been a huge decrease in demand for meat and dairy, but they are still given government subsidies, not to mention their own interest in creating profits. More humane conditions for factory farm animals usually means that there is higher cost and lower production rates for these companies, which is not something that this business wants. Then the other factor is that based on our huge population and demand for animal products (even though it’s decreasing), I don’t think that there is a way to produce enough animal products for that demand in a so-called humane way. A lot of it has to do with how the entire animal agriculture business is set up which is kind of unfortunate. I think it’s a good question to consider for animal handling standards and that kind of thing.
Gurdeep Pandher: I have seen many videos on the internet showing the misbehaviour with animals, and a lot people watched those videos but still they are not doing enough to stop animal suffering. I have read somewhere that one vegetarian saves an average of 100 animals a year. What do you want to say about this statement?
Karina Inkster: I think that it’s a good idea; the actual number is probably different, I mean it’s pretty hard to estimate how many animals you would save, but the general idea of that statement is a good one. It’s probably more likely that one vegetarian prevents the future birth of 100 animals per year by not supporting the animal industry, it’s basically a supply and demand case. At any rate, I think that one person’s actions can add up over time and I think the actions of many people add up, too. Like I said, demand for dairy and meat products has drastically decreased over the last few years, so there is something to that statement. It reminds me of a quote I read somewhere which says that saving one animal doesn’t change the world, but it does change the world for that one animal. Even if you are only saving one animal a year it still makes a difference.
Gurdeep Pandher: They also have lives like we humans and they should have the right to live their lives, too.
Karina Inkster: Exactly, yeah.
Gurdeep Pandher: Now let’s turn towards your own business. Please tell me about Karina Inkster Healthy Living Academy.
Karina Inkster: In my business, which I call the Healthy Living Academy, I provide in-person and online personal training, nutrition counselling and healthy living coaching. Basically, I call myself a friendly kick in the butt that inspires and empowers my clients to live healthy lives. I train at a state-of-the-art gym facility in the Arbutus Ridge area of Vancouver but I also have options for phone, Skype and email coaching and consulting, which I do with a lot of people who are not in the Vancouver area.
Karina Inkster during a workout
Karina Inkster during a workout | Photo by: John Watson
Gurdeep Pandher: I had read in your book about different kinds of allergy problems you face in your life. Do they create any barriers in your goals towards health and writing?
Karina Inkster: Sure, my allergies are one of my main barriers to active healthy living. I have pretty severe seasonal allergies and asthma for most of the year, a good nine months a year. Mind you, this is getting better with allergy shots though, so it’s something that can be changed. For the most part, it means that I have to do all of my exercise indoors. I’m also at risk for something that’s called food-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis. What that means is that a potential sensitivity to a food that I may have can turn into a full-blown anaphylactic reaction up to eight hours after having eaten the food if I am working out. It means that really intense exercise can bring out an allergy that wasn’t there before. Basically, that means that I need to train in the morning before having had any food just so that I’m not at risk for this anaphylactic allergy reaction.
That’s a huge barrier because I basically had to create my client training schedule and my workweek around accommodating that problem. I don’t train people in the early morning because I have to do my own workouts then. I think it’s not a huge effect on my writing work, though. I mean sometimes allergies are really bad and I have vertigo or what I call “brain fog” where you feel lethargic and not up to doing much. I’ve been getting regular allergy shots for a number of years, and they’re really helping. It’s a slow process but it’s definitely worth it.
Gurdeep Pandher: That really inspires me. I had read in your book about many quick recipes for busy professionals. How did you create those recipes and who inspires you?
Karina Inkster: Those recipes are all ones that I use myself, and a lot of them were actually created while I was in graduate school fulltime, working three jobs, and still trying to work out and eat healthy food. Now I work 40 to 50-hour workweeks and need to make time for healthy food preparation and exercise, which can be pretty challenging. A lot of the recipes stem from my own need for quick, healthy food.
Thai Peanut Curry with Veggies
Karina’s Thai Peanut Curry with Veggies | Photo by: John Watson of Image Maker Photographic Studio
The recipes in my book are super easy to make, use common ingredients, and also of course they taste delicious! My health-minded friends and I are always trading easy and delicious recipe ideas. I’m also constantly inspired by my own clients at the gym, many of whom are experimenting in their own kitchens with healthy eating. They report back what they’ve been experimenting with and what has worked and what hasn’t. So it’s my friends and clients and just my own personal need for this really quick healthy food.
Gurdeep Pandher: Great! Apart from writing and fitness, what other hobbies or interests do you pursue?
Karina Inkster: Other than kicking people’s butts and working out and writing I would say that music is my main outside interest. I play accordion, Australian didgeridoo, and piano. My current musical project is a cover band with my friend Heidi. We are putting together a whole bunch of music from the French movie Amélie that we are going to perform at some local venues this year. My interests are mostly music but also a bit of visual art; I do paper filigree, which is called quilling, creating miniature sculptures.
Gurdeep Pandher: I am a big fan of music. Where can people go to buy your book?
Karina Inkster: It’s being sold at most major bookstores. It’s at Chapters, and the Book Warehouse, but you can also get it on Amazon.ca. You can just type in Vegan Vitality or Karina Inkster and it will pop up on Amazon.
Gurdeep Pandher: What’s the price of the book?
Karina Inkster: In the States, it is $19.95 and then in Canada it’s $23.95.
Gurdeep Pandher: Are you writing more books in the future?
Karina Inkster: Interesting you asked that because my second book is actually coming out this May.
Gurdeep Pandher: This May?
Karina Inkster: Yeah, it’s from the same publisher and it’s about foam rolling. It’s a type of physical therapy exercise, intended to decrease muscle tension and prevent injury, so a lot of high performance athletes and very active people use it. It’s a very specific type of exercise that the publisher requested that I write about. So it wasn’t my idea, it was the publisher saying, “Hey we need a book on foam rolling, do you want to write it?” I decided I would do it. It was a very quick project compared to the first book. It’s coming out May 5th.
Gurdeep Pandher: That’s great that your publisher requested that. It means the publisher recognizes that you have a great writing skill.
Karina Inkster: It was definitely an interesting opportunity and I thought that I would take it because those things don’t come along very often. I am taking a break from books for a while but there will be more in the future, but for the next year or so I feel like I should focus on my business. It’s been a little neglected because of those books so I haven’t had a lot of time to focus on business building.
Gurdeep Pandher: Writing a book takes a lot of time and energy!
Karina Inkster: It’s true.
Gurdeep Pandher: Thank you so much for participating in this interview! I really appreciate your time.
Karina Inkster: No problem, you are welcome! Thanks for getting in touch. I like what you are doing with your website.